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Digital Technology

In Africa, technology and human capital go hand in hand

Sheila Jagannathan's picture
Photo: eLearning Africa
Rwanda’s progress from the devastating civil war two decades ago to one of the most rapidly developing African countries is a remarkable narrative on development.

Twenty-four years ago, the country was torn apart by civil war and one of the worst genocides human history has known; one in which more than a million people were killed in only three months.

Now, with years of sustained economic growth—predicted to be around 6.5% this year, the country is well on the way to achieving many of the ambitious development goals set out in the Rwandan Government’s ‘Vision 2020.’ This strategy seeks to move away from agriculture and rely instead on services and knowledge as the new engines of economic growth, with the objective of achieving middle-income status in the near term.

I had the privilege of getting a snapshot view of Rwanda’s success during the few days I spent in the country last month attending elearning Africa 2018, the continent’s largest conference on technology-assisted learning and training. The choice of Kigali as the location for this year’s conference is highly symbolic: Rwanda has put education and skills at the heart of its national strategy, and can send a powerful message to other African countries about the importance of investing in human capital to support overall development.

How can digital technology help transform Africa’s food system?

Simeon Ehui's picture
Also available in: Français 
Photo: Arne Hoel/World Bank
There’s no question that agriculture is critical to Africa’s biggest development goals. It is fundamental for poverty reduction, economic growth and environment sustainability. African food market continues to grow. It is estimated that African food markets will triple to US$1 trillion from its current US$300 billion value. Farming accounts for 60% of total employment in Sub-Saharan Africa—and food system jobs account for even more. In Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, the food system is projected to add more jobs than the rest of the economy between 2010 and 2025.

And yet, Africa’s agriculture sector is facing serious challenges. Agricultural productivity in Africa lags behind other regions. One in four people in Sub-Saharan Africa are chronically undernourished. Africa’s food system is further strained by rapid population growth and climate change. The food security challenge will only grow as climate change intensifies, threatening crop and livestock production. If no adaptation occurs, production of maize—which is one of Africa’s staple crops—could decline by up to 40% by 2050. Clearly, business as usual approaches to agriculture in Africa aren’t fit for transforming the sector to meet its full potential.

Digital technology could be part of the solution. But how can digital technology help transform Africa’s food system?

It’s instructive to look at startups, which are an emerging force in Africa’s agriculture sector.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

Doing Business 2018 : Reforming to Create Jobs
World Bank Development Economics

Fifteen in a series of annual reports comparing business regulation in 190 economies, Doing Business 2018 measures aspects of regulation affecting 10 areas of everyday business activity: • Starting a business • Dealing with construction permits • Getting electricity • Registering property • Getting credit • Protecting minority investors • Paying taxes • Trading across borders • Enforcing contracts • Resolving insolvency These areas are included in the distance to frontier score and ease of doing business ranking. Doing Business also measures features of labor market regulation, which is not included in these two measures. The report updates all indicators as of June 1, 2017, ranks economies on their overall “ease of doing business”, and analyzes reforms to business regulation – identifying which economies are strengthening their business environment the most. Doing Business illustrates how reforms in business regulations are being used to analyze economic outcomes for domestic entrepreneurs and for the wider economy. It is a flagship product produced in partnership by the World Bank Group that garners worldwide attention on regulatory barriers to entrepreneurship. More than 137 economies have used the Doing Business indicators to shape reform agendas and monitor improvements on the ground. In addition, the Doing Business data has generated over 2,182 articles in peer-reviewed academic journals since its inception.
 
Navigating the digital future: The disruption of capital projects
McKinsey & Company

Productivity in the construction sector has stagnated for decades, with the average capital project reaching completion 20 months behind schedule and 80 percent over budget. Some overruns result from increased project complexity and scale, but another factor also looms large: all stakeholders in the capital-projects ecosystem—project owners, contractors, and subcontractors—have resisted adopting digital tools and platforms. These include advanced analytics, automation, robotics, 5-D building information modeling (BIM), and online document-management or data-collection systems. Meanwhile, companies in sectors ranging from government to manufacturing have significantly reduced costs and schedules by aggressively pursuing digital solutions.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 
McKinsey & Company
Productivity in the construction sector has stagnated for decades, with the average capital project reaching completion 20 months behind schedule and 80 percent over budget. Some overruns result from increased project complexity and scale, but another factor also looms large: all stakeholders in the capital-projects ecosystem—project owners, contractors, and subcontractors—have resisted adopting digital tools and platforms. These include advanced analytics, automation, robotics, 5-D building information modeling (BIM), and online document-management or data-collection systems. Meanwhile, companies in sectors ranging from government to manufacturing have significantly reduced costs and schedules by aggressively pursuing digital solutions.

Pollution kills 9 million people each year, new study finds
Washington Post

Dirty air in India and China. Tainted water in sub-Saharan Africa. Toxic mining and smelter operations in South America. Pollution around the globe now contributes to an estimated 9 million deaths  annually — or roughly one in six — according to an in-depth new study published Thursday in the Lancet. If accurate, that means pollution kills three times more people each year than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, with most of those deaths  in poor and developing countries.
 

Transforming microfinance through digital technology in Malaysia

Djauhari Sitorus's picture
Dato’ Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, launching the Virtual Teller Machine (VTM) at the National Savings Bank. Digital technologies such as the VTM are now changing the way microfinance works. Photo: The Star

The rise of artificial intelligence: what does it mean for development?

Leebong Lee's picture

Video: Artificial intelligence for the SDGs (International Telecommunication Union)

Along with my colleagues on the ICT sector team of the World Bank, I firmly believe that ICTs can play a critical role in supporting development. But I am also aware that professionals on other sector teams may not necessarily share the same enthusiasm.

Typically, there are two arguments against ICTs for development. First, to properly reap the benefits of ICTs, countries need to be equipped with basic communication and other digital service delivery infrastructure, which remains a challenge for many of our low-income clients. Second, we need to be mindful of the growing divide between digital-ready groups vs. the rest of the population, and how it may exacerbate broader socio-economic inequality.

These concerns certainly apply to artificial intelligence (AI), which has recently re-emerged as an exciting frontier of technological innovation. In a nutshell, artificial intelligence is intelligence exhibited by machines. Unlike the several “AI winters” of the past decades, AI technologies really seem to be taking off this time. This may be promising news, but it challenges us to more clearly validate the vision of ICT for development, while incorporating the potential impact of AI.

It is probably too early to figure out whether AI will be blessing or a curse for international development… or perhaps this type of binary framing may not be the best approach. Rather than providing a definite answer, I’d like to share some thoughts on what AI means for ICT and development.

Virtual Reality: The Future of Immersive Learning for Development

Sheila Jagannathan's picture

Former Bougainvillean combatant, now cocoa farmer Timothy Konovai tries out VR for the first time (World Bank/Alana HolmbergIn the blink of an eye, virtual reality can take you from a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan to a first responder’s mission in Nepal, from practicing surgery in Nigeria to tracking storms from earth observation satellites across South America. Virtual reality adds a new dimension to the learning experience: presence, the feeling of actually being in another place.
 
Learning from this new generation technology is becoming available at your fingertips for a minimal cost. Although virtual reality is still in its infancy, its cutting-edge approach and storytelling is already impacting development education, where it can draw us closer to the many development challenges we face.
 
What Exactly is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality refers to technology that generates realistic images, sounds, and other sensory inputs that replicate an environment. A headset completely immerses the individual in the environment being generated. Immersion is a word you will hear quite a bit related to virtual reality: immersive learning, immersive simulations, or immersive applications. The most famous virtul reality tool now is probably Oculus Rift.

Media (R)evolutions: Trends in information and communication technologies

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Every year the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) publishes Measuring the Information Society Report that looks at the latest developments in information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Here are some of the latest ICT trends according to ITU.  

Regional comparisons:
  • Europe continues to lead the way in ICT development;
  • A number of countries in the Americas significantly improved their performance in the ICT Development Index (IDI);
  • The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region is the most homogeneous in terms of ICT development;
  • The Asia-Pacific region is, by contrast, the most heterogeneous;
  • There is great diversity in ICT development across the Arab States;
  • Africa is working on pushing up its IDI performance.
Internet potential underused:
  • Many people have access to Internet, but many do not actually use them;
  • The full potential of the Internet remains untapped;
  • Many people still do not own or use a mobile phone;
  • Progress in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – mobile-cellular prices continued to decrease in 2015, and the price drop was steeper than in previous years;
  • Affordability is the main barrier to mobile-phone ownership;
  • Fixed-broadband prices continued to drop significantly in 2015 but remain high – and clearly unaffordable in a number of LDCs.
The issue of affordability of various ICT services needs to be at the forefront of the development agenda in order to decrease the digital divide. Despite the fact that the overall mobile-cellular prices, as well as fixed-broadband and mobile-broadband prices have dropped in recent years, affordability of ICT services is still one of the key barriers to ICT uptake.  The role of ICTs is crucial in ending poverty, providing millions with access to a wealth of educational resources, and supporting the Sustainable Development Goals.

The recent report also finds that the gender gap is prominent in many aspects of technology. For example, “data on mobile-phone usage by gender shows that the percentage of male users is higher than that of female users in most countries, although differences are small in most economies.” However, in some countries gender gap is significant in the mobile-phone ownership. For example, in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, men are twice as likely as women to own a mobile phone.
 

#6 from 2016: Media (R)evolutions: Time spent online continues to rise

Roxanne Bauer's picture
Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2016. This post was originally published on February 10, 2016.  
 

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Roughly how many hours do you spend online each day? How many hours do you spend on social media? If you’re like most people, you’re are spending more and more time online, and you’re spending much of that time on social media networks.

Each year, We Are Social collates key data from multiple sources to make sense of the digital and social trends affecting media and technology. Digital in 2016 is the latest report, and the following graphs illustrate data the organization obtained from the Global Web Index. GWI conducts annual interviews with 200,000 internet users across 33 markets in quarterly waves, each of which has a global sample size of 45,000 – 50,000 internet users.
 
Amongst the 30 economies surveyed, Filipinos and Brazilians spend the most time using the internet, clocking an impressive 5.2 hours per day on average. Together with Thais, Brazilians also top the list for the amount of time spent using mobile internet, logging an average of 3.9 hours per day on their devices.  Contrary to what you might expect, the Japanese and South Koreans spend the least amount of time on the internet each day, logging only 2.9 and 3.1 hours respectively. This matches previous years in which these countries have been at the bottom of the spectrum.

Year in Review: 2016 in 12 Charts (and a video)

Tariq Khokhar's picture

Between the social, political, and economic upheavals affecting our lives, and the violence and forced displacement making headlines, you’d be forgiven for feeling gloomy about 2016. A look at the data reveals some of the challenges we face but also the progress we’ve made toward a more peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable future. Here are 12 charts that help tell the stories of the year.

1.The number of refugees in the world increased.

At the start of 2016, 65 million people had been forcibly displaced from their homes, up from 60 million the year before. More than 21 million were classified as refugees. Outside of Sub-Saharan Africa, most refugees live in cities and towns, where they seek safety, better access to services, and job opportunities. A recent report on the "Forcibly Displaced" offers a new perspective on the role of development in helping refugees, internally displaced persons and host communities, working together with humanitarian partners. Among the initiatives is new financial assistance for countries such as Lebanon and Jordan that host large numbers of refugees.



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